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by Alice Kaplan

ePub French Lessons: A Memoir download
Author:
Alice Kaplan
ISBN13:
978-0226424194
ISBN:
0226424197
Language:
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press (October 15, 1994)
Category:
Subcategory:
Arts & Literature
ePub file:
1795 kb
Fb2 file:
1822 kb
Other formats:
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Rating:
4.1
Votes:
890

He came bounding into the room at me. He was long and wiry with shiny black hair and a devil smile on his face ericaine, to t'appelles.

The room was packed with noisy foreign students. Andre's voice drowned them out completely.

Alice Kaplan's book French Lessons: A Memoir, proved to be fine reading while relaxing on a summer vacation. She learns how to speak the French "r" and so much more. Alas, upon her return to the US, she no longer seemed to fit in, as she returns to the US of 1970, where her friends now smoked pot, drank and listened to rock concerts

Alice Kaplan is the author of French Lessons: A Memoir, The Collaborator, The Interpreter, and Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the translator of OK, Joe, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, A Box of Photographs, an. .

Alice Kaplan is the author of French Lessons: A Memoir, The Collaborator, The Interpreter, and Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the translator of OK, Joe, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, A Box of Photographs, and Palace of Books. Her books have been twice finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, once for the National Book Award, and she is a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She holds the John M. Musser chair in French literature at Yale and lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

Alice Kaplan beautifully describes the intricate mixture of lust and embarrassment and voyeurism and . of French politeness. "Born a Jewish daughter of the American Midwest, Alice Kaplan became a professor of French and an expert on the literature of French fascism.

of French politeness.

Kaplan confronts French cultural and political systems as she claims her identity as a bilingual woman of Jewish heritage and weaves her way through academia, resulting is an honest telling of personal growth and cultural identity that those interested in French won’t want to skip.

Brilliantly uniting the personal and the critical, French Lessons is a powerful autobiographical experiment. Kaplan begins with a distinctly American quest for an imaginary France of the intelligence.

Alice Kaplan is the author of French Lessons: A Memoir, The Collaborator, The Interpreter, and Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the translator of OK, Joe, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, A Box of Photographs, an. Musser chair in French literature at Yale. She lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

French Lessons: A Memoir. No book so engrossingly conveys both the excitement of learning and the moral dilemmas of the intellectual life. French Lessons - Alice Kaplan. Part One: Before I Knew French. Brilliantly uniting the personal and the critical, French Lessons is a powerful autobiographical experiment. Read on the Scribd mobile app. Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere.

Brilliantly uniting the personal and the critical, French Lessons is a powerful autobiographical experiment. It tells the story of an American woman escaping into the French language and of a scholar and teacher coming to grips with her history of learning. Kaplan begins with a distinctly American quest for an imaginary France of the intelligence. But soon her infatuation with all things French comes up against the dark, unimagined recesses of French political and cultural life.The daughter of a Jewish lawyer who prosecuted Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg, Kaplan grew up in the 1960s in the Midwest. After her father's death when she was seven, French became her way of "leaving home" and finding herself in another language and culture. In spare, midwestern prose, by turns intimate and wry, Kaplan describes how, as a student in a Swiss boarding school and later in a junior year abroad in Bordeaux, she passionately sought the French "r," attentively honed her accent, and learned the idioms of her French lover.When, as a graduate student, her passion for French culture turned to the elegance and sophistication of its intellectual life, she found herself drawn to the language and style of the novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine. At the same time she was repulsed by his anti-Semitism. At Yale in the late 70s, during the heyday of deconstruction she chose to transgress its apolitical purity and work on a subject "that made history impossible to ignore:" French fascist intellectuals. Kaplan's discussion of the "de Man affair" — the discovery that her brilliant and charismatic Yale professor had written compromising articles for the pro-Nazi Belgian press—and her personal account of the paradoxes of deconstruction are among the most compelling available on this subject.French Lessons belongs in the company of Sartre's Words and the memoirs of Nathalie Sarraute, Annie Ernaux, and Eva Hoffman. No book so engrossingly conveys both the excitement of learning and the moral dilemmas of the intellectual life.
  • French Lessons, by Alice Kaplan, may not appeal to a wide audience, but to those readers who share with her a love of language, and more specifically, the love of a foreign language, this book is a gem.

    It is intended as a memoir, but is capacious enough (without being excessively long), to contain a number of digressions, in effect a series of short essays on a variety of subjects, from fascist writers in France to the alluring complexities of the French language to the employment problems facing PhD candidates in the humanities and on to the state of foreign language studies in the USA. In addition, this book might be called a meditation on alterity, on "otherness," as embodied by the cultural émigré. I'm referring to someone like Kaplan who seeks out a foreign land and a foreign language in order to achieve a sense of completeness not found in either the mother country or the mother tongue. If any of these topics seem even remotely interesting to you, I encourage you to read this book. You may find, as I did, that these subjects are more engaging than you ever imagined they could be, thanks to Kaplan's talents as a writer. (Though she herself says, on the last page, "All my life I've used and abused my gift for language. I'm tempted . . . to wrap things up too neatly in words." I wish I could reassure her on this point by pointing out that nothing in French Lessons constitutes an abuse of language. Au contraire, Madame.)

    Alice Kaplan was born in 1954 to a well-to-do Jewish family in Minnesota. Her father, who died just as she turned 8, was involved in prosecuting former Nazis at the Nuremberg trials. The loss of this obviously brilliant man left a gap in her existence which, in the mysterious ways that these things often work, was at least partially filled by Kaplan's consuming interest in the French language, a language for which nothing in her background would seem to indicate a predisposition. French arrived in her life like a gift from heaven.

    The earlier parts of the book describe how she went about acquiring proficiency in the language (she is today chairperson of the French Department at Yale). Her privileged, if not especially happy, family circumstances enabled her to spend a year as a high school student in a Swiss boarding school near Geneva. Later, while an undergraduate at Berkeley, she spent a formative year abroad in Paris. In between, as well as in the years following her graduation, she immersed herself in her adopted culture, aided by her burgeoning knowledge of the language.

    Rather than describe the biographical elements of this memoir (often somewhat sketchy, as she withholds certain personal details one might expect in such an account), I will illustrate some of the more prominent themes in the book by quoting the author directly. They show her occasional ambivalence, but also her devotion to the concepts of biculturalism and bilingualism.

    "I've been willing to overlook in French culture what I wouldn't accept in my own, for the privilege of living in translation." (p. 140)

    "French was also a response to my adolescence, a discipline to cover up the changes in my body I wanted to hide." (p. 204)

    ". . . sometimes I don't want to need French so much. I want to be free of it. No more secret language, no more veering off, no more wanting in and never quite getting there. Because I can't imaging not having French. I think I would starve without it." (p. 208)

    "Why do some people adopt another culture? Because there's something in their own they don't like, that doesn't name them." (p. 209)

    ". . . why have I confined myself to teach in this second language, this language which will never be as easy as the first one? Why have I chosen to live in not-quite-my-own-language, in exile from myself, for so many years . . .? . . . In French class I feel close, open, willing to risk a language that isn't the language of everyday life. A sacred language." (p. 210)

    "I'm grateful to French . . . for teaching me that there is more than one way to speak, for giving me a role, for being the home I've made from my own will and my own imagination." (p. 216)

  • Moliere wrote: "Hors de Paris il n'y a point de salut" ("Out of Paris there is no salvation"). I think Alice Kaplan would agree. This is a good summer-read book. On one level, it is pleasant coming-of-age memoir. On the other level -- a serious discourse about French and what we gain from the study of this language. Though I am fluent in English and Russian, I've been struggling with French for 4-5 years now. It is a hard language to master. In my view, French is a very precise, highly disciplined and highly exacting language. Compared to pliable Russian, French is as restrictive as a straightjacket. Yet, it gives us a lot in return. As someone said: "Elle est la langue de beauté et de tolerance, et elle est charnelle." ("The French language is the tongue of beauty and of tolerance, and it is carnal"). The author also stresses a certain physicality of speaking French. There is the third level in this book. The French have an interesting institution called "Explication de Texte" - a formal method of literary analysis. I think Alice analyses her life as if it were a literary text, as it unfolds from one signifier in a metonymic chain to another. A very interesting book indeed, and very French. I recommend it.

  • This is a beautiful book.

    My first reaction to reading it was envy: Envy that her family had the means to send her to a Swiss boarding school to absorb French language and culture. Envy that she has been able to devote her professional life to the study of such a beautiful and absorbing subject. And envy at the precision of her language, and the equal precision of her insight into herself. She is a very intelligent and strong-willed person, but she isn't arrogant. She seems to appreciate that her relationship with the French language is a gift, and she has done her best to use it well. I'm sure she is an excellent teacher, compassionate and understanding of her students. By the end of the book, I came to realize that she has had her share of pain, loneliness, and unhappiness, just like all the rest of us. But I still envy her.

    The author's relationship with the French language is, as one might expect, complicated. As she tells us how she came to be a teacher of French, we learn much else: Of her childhood, her father and his premature death, and its effect on her; of her first immersion in the French language at a Swiss boarding school; of her boyfriends, her cigarette smoking, her willfulness and her anger. We also learn about the relationship between post-WWII French politics and the literature of the French fascists, of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, and also Drieu La Rochelle, Bardeche, and Brasillach. We learn about her experiences with Paul de Man at Yale, her disillusion when he was exposed as having been a Nazi sympathizer during the war. We learn of her experiences teaching the Capretz method, and of her search for the perfect French "r".

    This complicated story is told with great economy and precision, as one would expect of someone who has spent her adult life immersed in French language and literature. Her style is completely lucid and transparent. Her descriptions flow off the page seamlessly into the mind's eye. And although we learn quite a lot about the author, we learn only as much as we need to know in order to understand how she came to teach French, and no more. In this she is very French.

    So far as I can tell, there is no French translation of "French Lessons", although Kaplan's book on the Brasillach trial has been translated. I would guess that "French Lessons" would be very difficult to translate adequately into French.

  • This is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in French culture or language. The second half in particular provides useful language titbits and insights into French intellectual history of the postwar period as well as the mysteries of the literary method of deconstruction. As a Francophile and someone who has studied French for many years, I was very impressed with the author's dedication and level of mastery.